HMCTS and Parental Alienation

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Her Majesties Courts and Tribunal Service have been asked on various occasions dating back to 2013 questions around Parental Alienation.

Kindly confirm if Parental Alienation Syndrome or Parental Alienation is now an acceptable and valid evidence in court proceedings in the United Kingdom.
– November 2013

They replied:

The information you have requested constitutes legal advice. I am not legally qualified and therefore unable to advise you on any legal matters.

 

You may wish to consider taking independent legal advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), a solicitor or someone else who is legally trained.

Then in 2015:

1) Is Parental Alienation in direct or indirect manner forms law in family court proceeding and/or children proceeding under children act 1989 ?

2) In last two year (Jan 2013 onwards) how many family court proceedings were either granted appeal or fresh application admitted based on parental alienation.

3) In last 5 years, how many cases where CAFCASS was directed to file report on wishes and feeling of child, parental alienation was recognised as a reason for child refusing to see /talk or live with non-resident parents.

4) Please give reference of cases in point 2 and 3 above.”

 

They replied:

the cost of complying with your request would exceed the limit set by the Freedom of Information Act, on this occasion I’m afraid I will not be taking your request further.

 

I can, outside the scope of the act, and on a discretionary basis let you know that Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in which the resident parent, while seemingly supporting contact, covertly creates anxiety in the child, so that it appears the child is opposed to contact, was first described in 1985 by (the late) Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist in the United States.

 

PAS is not recognised as a ‘syndrome’ by many professionals in this country, although the courts and others do recognise that some resident parents are responsible for alienating their children from non-resident parents without good reason and the term ‘parental alienation’ is sometimes used. Many difficulties can emerge in the aftermath of divorce or separation and children can be affected in a variety of ways. Such difficulties need to be taken into account by courts when considering the welfare of children.

Same requester as a follow up:

“Could you however give me references of up to 4 (Four) cases heard in the courts under private family matters where parental alienation was referenced and successfully decided in favour of the non-resident parent.”

They replied:

As outlined in my letter ‘parental alienation’ is not recorded on the central case management system and therefore there is no way to easily identify which cases had parental alienation referenced.

 

So to give you references of four cases heard in the courts under private family matters where parental alienation was referenced and successfully decided in favour of the non-resident parent, would still require us to through the case files manually. I do not have any idea of the number of cases it would require and it is likely that we would have to look at a large number of files before we met four files that met your criteria. In which case cost factors would again come into play.

 

Just to give you an idea of numbers, just in the period from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015, there were over 60,000 Private Law Childrens Act cases, where a final disposal was reached. There is no way of telling how many of these had ‘parental alienation’ mentioned.

The requester tried again…

“I would refine the FOI request. Could you please share with information about private family matter where parental alienation was used by non-resident parent in the most recent 100 cases and the matter was decided in favour of non-resident parent.”

They replied initially to ask:

I am now unclear whether you are asking for information regarding:

 

  • The most recent 100 cases where parental alienation was a factor on the part of the non-resident parent, or

 

  • Of the most recent 100 cases where parental alienation by either parent was a factor, details of where it was on the part of the non-resident parent, or

 

  • Of the most recent 100 case that come under the Children’s Act 1989, details of cases where parental alienation was a factor on the part of the non-resident parent.

…at which point the requester appears to have given up.

Today we have started to try and establish what training is provided to the Judiciary, especially on Parental Alienation, Coached Children, and Emotional Abuse of children.

Our first request to HMCTS has been made today and is as follows:

The Judicial College – “Family”

On your website ([LINK]) you say:

“Distinct induction courses are provided for judges newly authorised to hear private family law and public family law cases in the county court, and for the district bench of the Family Proceedings Court. They are both 4 day residential courses consisting of small group work and lectures. For further information on the content see the Prospectus.

Continuing education for the family jurisdiction is provided through a number of different options that will assist those who sit in either (or both) private or public family law. A seminar is also provided for those who sit in the Family Division of the High Court”

Please could you supply a copy of your induction course syllabuses in whichever format is easiest for you.

Could you also provide a list of the options available for continuing education

We will update this page when we start to receive the answers.

 

In a Family Law system designed for combative parents there is no real allowance for the views of children and any understanding of how Family Law ultimately impacts on children most of all.

We speak for the children in Family Law so that, finally, the children have a voice.